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Nine-game win streak, lopsided victories has De La Salle hockey as one of state's best

By: Mike Moore | Warren Weekly | Published January 12, 2011

 De La Salle junior defenseman Kevin Smith (20) and senior goalie Jake Theut try to look around a Brother Rice forward during a Nov. 20 loss. At press time, that was the only setback for the Pilots, who were 9-1-0.

De La Salle junior defenseman Kevin Smith (20) and senior goalie Jake Theut try to look around a Brother Rice forward during a Nov. 20 loss. At press time, that was the only setback for the Pilots, who were 9-1-0.

Photo by David Schreiber

FRASER — On Nov. 20, the Warren De La Salle hockey team officially dropped the puck on the new season with a home game against Birmingham Brother Rice.

In the eyes of coach Dan Barry, it was a contest his team had a good chance to win.

In the minds of his players, it was one they never should have lost.

Roughly a month and half later, it’s a date the Pilots have yet to forget.

“I think our guys learned a lot about this team and about themselves in that game,” Barry said of the 3-2 loss in which his squad outshot Rice 37-19. “It proved we weren’t invincible like we thought we were. It showed the work ethic we’d put forth to that point wasn’t good enough.”

“Huge wake-up call,” said senior Brad Annas, a Macomb resident, before a Jan. 3 practice at Great Lakes Sports City in Fraser. “I remember watching that tape and seeing all the things that hurt us. It was pretty obvious that we needed to work a lot harder. We weren’t going to be able to just show up and beat teams.”

Since Nov. 20, however, that’s all the Pilots have done — beat teams.

Their first game following the loss to Rice came four days later, but it might as well have been a new team that took the ice. Regrouped and refocused, the Pilots scored four first-period goals against Grosse Pointe South en route to a 9-1 mercy.

The real De La Salle team had officially arrived, and the players haven’t looked back since.

“We’re having a lot of fun right now,” senior and Sterling Heights resident Shane McKenna said with a smile.

His grin was justified.

Including the South victory, the Pilots had won nine consecutive games by an average of nearly four goals.

And they haven’t been playing cupcakes, either.

On Dec. 4, De La Salle beat Novi Detroit Catholic Central, the two-time defending Division 1 champ, 5-4. A week later, the guys went on the road and beat D-1 semifinalist Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 4-3.

In six Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League games, the Pilots are 5-1-0 and tied for first place, all the while earning the top ranking in D-2 by the Michigan High School Hockey Coaches Association.

“I guess we might be a little surprised (at the winning streak),” Annas said. “At the same time, we feel like this is something we’re capable of when we’re playing the way we can.”

When asked about the team’s play of late, Barry first mentioned the overall work ethic that changed with his players and the seriousness they’ve taken into every practice.

Of course, talent and depth haven’t hurt, either.

“We’ve really been clicking. When you’ve got four lines rolling, we’re tough to beat,” he explained. “I mean, our forth line seems to be producing as much as our first line, and when we attack teams like that, they have such trouble matching up.”

To clarify Barry’s point, seven different players have 10 or more points so far, with seniors Ricky Steenland (nine goals, 10 assists) of Roseville and Sterling Heights’ Austin Hibner (5, 14) leading the way with 19 each.

Combine that with a defense that has allowed a total of 20 goals — led by Washington senior netminder Jake Theut’s 7-1 record between the pipes with a goals against average of 1.80 and a save percentage of .922 — and it’s easy to see why De La Salle is already thinking about a run to a state championship, even with 13 regular-season games remaining.

“We want to keep this rolling,” Barry said. “The key is staying healthy and continuing with the work ethic we have.”

“We’ve got the potential to be the best team in the state,” Annas said. “Some might think we’re the best team right now, but there’s a lot of time left. We still have a lot to prove.”